WASHINGTON (BP) — The parents of Charlie Gard have put an end to their legal fight to gain treatment for their 11-month-old son in a heartrending case that gained international attention.
A lawyer for the parents — Chris Gard and Connie Yates — told a judge in a British High Court hearing Monday (July 24) that “time had run out” for the infant, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) News. Since an experimental treatment no longer seemed to hold promise, the parents said they “are now going to spend our last precious moments” with their son.
The legal battle over the infant’s life came at the intersection of the sanctity of human life, medical ethics and parental rights. The parents raised about $1.7 million for an experimental treatment in the United States, but Great Ormond Street Hospital — where Charlie is a patient — refused to permit the therapy and received the backing of various courts to remove him from life support.
Pro-life advocates grieved the result.
“Charlie Gard might be invisible to the European authorities, but Jesus knows and loves him,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments.
“The European courts’ abuse of their power by usurping the authority of Charlie’s parents regarding his care is shocking to the conscience,” Moore said. “We should pray for them, and for this troubling precedent from the courts to end.”
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, provided legal counsel for the parents in recent weeks and was in the courtroom when the decision was announced.
“This decision was not made lightly,” Foster said in a written statement. “After over 8 months of exhaustively battling for the right to care for their son, Chris Gard and Connie Yates made a brave choice to do what was best for their little Charlie and end the legal fight to seek cutting-edge treatment.”
However, Foster said, “… if Charlie had been allowed to receive treatment back in November 2016, when his parents originally requested it, there would have been a good chance that Charlie could have substantially recovered and lived a full and complete life. Instead, the hospital and the courts denied Charlie and his parents that chance, leaving their hands tied and a gut-wrenching decision to be made today.
“We will continue to fight for the dignity of every human life and for every parent to make life-affirming, evidence-based choices for their children,” Foster said.
Charlie Gard has a rare condition known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). He appeared healthy at birth but began to deteriorate soon thereafter, BBC News reported. He now has severe brain damage and cannot open his eyes, breathe without a ventilator or move his limbs.
Michio Hirano, a Columbia University neurology professor who had offered to try nucleoside bypass therapy with Charlie, traveled to London last week to determine if he might still be a candidate for the treatment, but a MRI scan indicated it was too late, according to BBC News.
In a statement he read outside the court July 24, Chris Gard said, “This is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to say and we are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go.
“A whole lot of time has been wasted” while court battles were fought, Gard said in the statement published by the British newspaper The Independent.
“Tragically, having had Charlie’s medical notes reviewed by independent experts, we now know had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” Gard said. “Charlie’s been left for his illness to deteriorate devastatingly to the point of no return.
“All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world-renowned hospital to another world-renowned hospital in the attempt to save his life and to be treated by the world’s leader in mitochondrial disease,” Gard said. “We’ll have to live with the what-ifs, which will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”
Connie Yates read a similar statement in the courtroom.
The legal battle, which began in early March, saw three British courts rule against the parents before the European Court of Human Rights announced June 27 it would not intervene in the case, BBC News reported. The hospital sought a new court hearing July 7 after new evidence was suggested regarding the experimental treatment.
President Trump and Pope Francis both offered in early July to help the parents. The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment July 18 to grant permanent residence status to Charlie and his parents, according to The Hill newspaper. The proposal would have expedited the process for them to travel to the United States for the experimental treatment.